Justice Department changing lawyers on census case
The Justice Department is swapping out the lawyers who had been representing the administration in its legal battle to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census, possibly signaling career attorneys’ legal or ethical concerns over the maneuvering ordered by President Trump.
The department announced the move in a statement, which was issued after The Washington Post inquired about whether the career lawyers on the team planned to withdraw. A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that at least some of the career attorneys harbored concerns about the administration’s handling of the case — although the nature of those concerns and how widespread they were could not immediately be learned.
“As will be reflected in filings tomorrow in the census-related cases, the Department of Justice is shifting these matters to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “Since these cases began, the lawyers representing the United States in these cases have given countless hours to defending the Commerce Department and have consistently demonstrated the highest professionalism, integrity and skill inside and outside the courtroom. The attorney general appreciates that service, thanks them for their work on these important matters and is confident that the new team will carry on in the same exemplary fashion as the cases progress.”
The shift in lawyers will be reflected in simple withdrawal and appearance notices filed in court, a Justice Department official said. The official said the entire team on the case — both those in political positions and career employees who have served multiple administrations — will be replaced with political and career lawyers from the department’s Civil Division and Consumer Protection Branch. Several career members of the team declined to comment to The Post.
That the department also replaced those in political jobs signals there could have been other factors in the staffing shift beyond concern from career employees. At least one political official, James Burnham, had no objection to continuing on the case but supported the move to go with a new team, according to a Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.